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Volume 23 No. 17
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Guinness signs deal with Champions Cup

Guinness has signed a five-year deal to be the presenting and lead sponsor in North America of the International Champions Cup, a deal valued at more than eight figures over its term, according to sources familiar with the agreement.

Guinness will be the International Champions Cup’s presenting and lead sponsor in North America.
The deal positions Guinness differently than the standing it’s had for the summer soccer tournament’s first two iterations. Both this year and in 2013, the tournament was branded as the Guinness International Champions Cup. The new deal puts Guinness in a presenting role in North America at a time when the event’s organizers have designs on staging an International Champions Cup overseas, as well.


SBJ Podcast Archive:
From Aug. 11: Executive Editor Abraham Madkour and writer Tripp Mickle analyze the "summer of soccer," what it means for the sport in the U.S. and what it could mean for Major League Soccer.

The change would allow for the Cup name to be singularly featured for both entities.

The deal was managed by Ascendent Sports Group, which recently rebranded from Insignia Sports & Entertainment and is a division of RSE Ventures, as is tournament organizer Relevent Sports. Greg Luckman, global head of CAA Sports Consulting, represented Guinness in the deal.

“Without Guinness, people might still be looking at the Cup as just a collection of games, and through their commitment, the tournament has been able to reach the level it has,” said Charlie Stillitano, chairman of Relevent Sports. “They took a chance on us, and I think they have been great, and we’ve been good for them as well.”

The deal will give Guinness in-stadium activation opportunities (including the ability to sell beer at the games), as well as pathways for watch parties and other grassroots initiatives.

“From our perspective, Guinness has been with us since the beginning and helped us get the tournament off the ground from a commercial perspective,” said Matt Grandis, vice president of corporate sponsorships and media at Ascendent. “The fact that they are renewing further helps confirm the validity of the property from that commercial property perspective.”

The deal comes on the heels of a successful 2014 tournament that saw eight European clubs compete in a 13-game event that culminated in a trophy win by Manchester United. The tournament saw increases in attendance and TV viewership from 2013, as well as more sponsorship and TV rights revenue. It also scored the most-attended soccer game in U.S. history, an Aug. 2 match at Michigan Stadium featuring Manchester United and Real Madrid that drew 109,318 fans.

“We are proud to have been such an integral part of the ICC’s growth in such a short time and are very excited to help its continued growth while solidifying the connection between Guinness and world-class soccer,” said Guinness spokesman Jim Sias, in a statement. “We’ve seen a tremendous amount of growth and fan excitement so we really wanted to continue the relationship with the ICC.”

Guinness previously had a two-year deal with an option for an extension, but both parties agreed to work on a new contract that Stillitano said both sides “are very excited about.”

While this deal is a North American-focused partnership, Grandis said the tournament last year proved that it holds significant global media value. Its games reached more than 650 million households across the world.

As for the international event plans, RSE Ventures earlier this year signed a partnership with Australian sports marketing agency TLA Worldwide to run its first edition of the International Champions Cup in Asia next year, and it has begun scouting potential locations in China, Indonesia and other markets (SportsBusiness Journal, Aug. 11-17 issue).

Next year’s tournament in the United States will feature a format similar to this year’s round-robin, pool-play schedule. Teams and venues are expected to be announced in the months ahead.

“Our challenge now is to keep the tournament fresh and to make the games a destination event for fans,” Stillitano said. “When we see cities like Charlotte and Ann Arbor bring in millions of dollars to their marketplace around the games, that becomes special not only for us, but for those communities as well.”